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Lalu Prasad Yadav gets Five Year in jail in Fodder Scam Case, fined 60 Lakh

Lalu Prasad Yadav gets Five Year in jail in Fodder Scam Case, fined 60 Lakh

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Constitutional Bodies || Election Commission

Why in the news?

Lalu Prasad Yadav gets Five Year in jail in Fodder Scam Case

Criminalisation of politics:

  • Criminals and persons facing criminal charges are increasingly involved in politics as a result of the criminalisation of politics.
  • The word refers to those who have a criminal record who go on to become politicians and political officials.
  • Bihar elections in October 2020, will be the first election where the Supreme Court’s decision (given in february 2020) that requires political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for elections along with the reasons to field such suspected criminals, will be implemented.
  • This judgment also requires such information mandatorily be published in a local and national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles.
  • While the judgment may have far-reaching consequences for curbing criminalisation of politics, yet still a lot has to be done to make a cleaner electoral process in India.

The growth of criminalisation of politics in India:

  • It has been noted that the number of criminals in politics has increased alarmingly over the last four general elections.
  • In 2004: 24% of Members of Parliament had criminal proceedings pending against them;
  • In 2009: Number had risen to 30%;
  • In 2014: It had risen to 34%; and
  • 2019: It has risen to 43%.
  • A total of 4,442 complaints against parliamentarians are pending across the country. There were 2,556 cases brought against sitting Members of Parliament and members of State legislatures.
  • Nearly half of the newly elected Lok Sabha members, according to the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), are facing criminal accusations. In comparison to 2014, this represents a 26% rise.

Reasons of Criminalization of Politics:

  • Lack of political will: Considerable progress has been made by the Supreme Court and the Election Commission in curbing the criminalization of politics.
    • It is the responsibility of Parliament, however, to amend the Representation of the People (RPA) Act 1951, which deals with the disqualification of candidates charged with serious offences in court.
    • While adequate steps have been taken to amend the RPA Act, there has been an unsaid understanding between the political parties that discourages Parliament from introducing strong laws to curb the criminalization of politics.
  • Lack of compliance: Due to the lack of enforcement of laws and decisions, numerous laws and court rulings have not helped much. For instance, as seen in almost all elections, a gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
  • Narrow Self-interests: It might not be very successful to disclose the entire criminal history of candidates run by political parties, since a large chunk of voters prefer to vote through a narrow lens of group interests such as caste or religion..
  • Muscle and Money Power Use: Considering their public profile, politicians with severe backgrounds tend to do well, mainly because of their ability to fund their own campaigns and add substantive resources to their respective parties. Often, when all participating candidates have criminal records, often voters are left without choices.

Effect of Criminalisation of Politics:

  • Against the Free and Equal Election Principle: using money and muscle power in elections, restricts the preference of electors to nominate a suitable candidate.
    • It is also against the free and equal election ethos that is the foundation stone of a democracy
  • Affecting Good Governance: The biggest issue is that law-breakers become law-makers, which undermines the effectiveness of good governance in the democratic process.
    • These unhealthy trends in the political system indicate a weak picture of the existence and efficiency of India’s state institutions and its elected representatives.
  • Impairing the honesty of public servants: it also contributes to increased circulation of black money before and after elections, which in turn increases social corruption and affects the functioning of public servants.
  • Causes of social disharmony: It introduces a culture of social violence and sets a poor example for young people to adopt and diminish the trust of people in democracy as a form of governance.
  • Effect on Society: It also leads to an increase in the circulation of black money during and after elections, fostering corruption in society and interfering with public workers’ jobs.It promotes a violent culture in society, sets a negative example for the kids, and erodes public confidence in democracy as a form of administration.
  • Economy: When money and muscular force are used in elections, voters’ options for electing a suitable candidate are limited. Furthermore, it is incompatible with the democratic culture of free and fair elections.

Some example- Cases:

  • UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES (PUCL) AND ANOTHER V. UNION OF INDIA AND ANOTHER:
    • The petitioner in the instant case, the Union for Civil Liberties (UCL), filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Section 33B.
    • In particular, UCL contended that the provision was arbitrary on its face and violated fundamental rights of the voters as previously recognized by the Supreme Court; and “that without exercise  of  the right to know  the relevant  antecedents  of  the candidate,  it  will  not  be possible  to have free and fair  elections” .
    • The interveners submitted that the Amended Act was consistent with the 2002 judgment and “that it cannot be held that a voter has any fundamental right of knowing the antecedents/assets of a candidate contesting the election”

Judicial steps to control criminalisation of politics:

  • Union of India (UOI) v. Association for Democratic Reforms and Anr, 2002: The Supreme Court of India (SC) held in Union of India (UOI) v. Association for Democratic Reforms and Anr, 2002, that every candidate running for Parliament, State Legislatures, or Municipal Corporation must declare their criminal records, financial records, and educational qualifications with their nomination papers.
  • In Ramesh Dalal vs. Union of India, 2005, the Supreme Court held that if a sitting MP or MLA is convicted and sentenced to not less than 2 years in prison by a court of law, he will be disqualified from contesting elections.
  • Foundation vs. Union of India case: Political parties must also publicise the pending criminal cases of their candidates online, according to the Supreme Court in the Public Interest Foundation vs Union of India case of 2018.
  • 2nd ARC Recommendations: In its fourth report on Ethics in Governance (2008), the Second Administrative Reforms Commission made the following recommendations:
    • Section 8 of the RPA should be amended to disqualify all persons facing charges related to grave and heinous crimes and corruption, where charges have been framed six months before the election.
    • It also supported the proposal to include the filing of false affidavits as an electoral offence under Section 31 of the Representation of the People Act.

How to Address Criminalisation?

  • State Funding of Elections: Various electoral reform committees (Dinesh Goswami, Indrajit Gupta Committee) have advised that elections be funded by the state. Election funding by the state will reduce the use of dark money to a substantial extent, resulting in increased transparency in campaign financing.
  • Strengthening of Election Commission: A political party can be registered but not deregistered by the Election Commission. Regulating a political party’s operations is critical for a more transparent electoral process.
  • Law Commission (255th on Electoral Reforms): Recommended Strong laws to govern the running of political parties, such as ECI’s proposal to set an expenditure cap on political parties, supported by considerable attendant legal safeguards to prevent disqualification at the stage of criminal prosecution. The cases of tainted legislators should be heard immediately by fast-track courts.
  • Strict enforcement of existing laws: There is disconnect between their intentions and their execution. As a result of this gap, the law’s aim is thwarted.
  • Behavioral Change: Efforts to restrict criminalization of politics will have little influence unless citizens realize that people who buy them for votes are untrustworthy and will ultimately harm them. As a result, voters must be wary of the use of money, gifts, and other forms of bribery during elections.

Conclusion:

Given the political parties’ inability to curb the criminalization of politics and its rising negative effects on Indian democracy, Indian courts must now seriously consider banning seriously charged candidates from contesting elections. Although there are different reasons for and against such a change, it would be a step in the right direction for Indian elections to be made more free and fair.

Mains oriented question:

By judicial fiat alone, de-criminalization of politics cannot be accomplished, requiring strong political will and, most significantly, a behavioral shift among Indian voters. Comment.